How to prepare for college
FACTOR 1: Take the right classes!
Most colleges and universities have a certain set of classes you must take to be eligible for admission. The most common pattern is the A-G requirements used by the CSU and UC system. While private schools may vary, following this pattern will ensure you are well are your way. A fourth year of math is encouraged just about everywhere!
FACTOR 2: Earn the grades
Maybe you took all the right classes... but how did you do in those classes? GPA has a big impact on how competitive an applicant you can be. If you earned D grades in any A-G classes, you'll have to repeat them. The CSU and UC will not recognize D grades as meeting the requirements; independent schools might, but they really impact your cumulative GPA. Keep in mind that there are many different GPA's that are used for colleges, financial aid, and even scholarships. On a very basic level, your GPA is made up using the following formula:
A= 4 points, B= 3 points, C= 2 points, D= 1 point and F= 0 points; add up the number of points you have and divide by the number of classes you counted. What about honors? Great question!
Here is a quick reference breaking down the different GPA's that are often used:
Cumulative Unweighted GPA (found on your transcript): Every class listed on your transcript using the basic formula above with NO additional points for honors or AP classes. This GPA can never be higher than 4.0.
Cumulative Weighted GPA (found on your transcript): Every class listed on your transcript; an extra point will be given for every honors or AP class where a C or higher is earned. While this GPA can often go above a 4.0, the GPA scale used is still considered to be a 4.0 scale.
A-G College Admission GPA (found on your Aeries College Entrance Requirements screen): CSU and UC campuses use this GPA to evaluate students for college admission. It includes only the grades earned in A-G classes beginning the summer after freshmen year. AP classes will earn an extra point (as long as they are passed with a C or better) but not all honors classes are given an extra point for this GPA. To see what Wilson offers that is A-G approved as well as which classes earn the extra point, see our official A-G course list. UC and CSU will limit extra points to a maximum of eight semesters, including no more than four semesters taken in the 10th grade year (known as the "Capped GPA").
REPEATED COURSES: If you earn a grade of D or lower in a class and choose to repeat it for grade improvement, the higher grade earned will be used to calculate your GPA provided the courses are the same. Example, if you earn a D in Math 2 and then take Math 2 again over summer school and earn an A, the A would be used in your GPA calculation, not the D. However, if you earned an F in English 2 Honors and then took English 2 over summer school and got a B, BOTH the F and B would be calculated in your GPA since they are not the same course.
Confusing? Don't worry, that's why you have a counselor!
Factor 3: involvement outside the classroom
While your classes and grades are the biggest factors, many schools, especially the UC system and private schools, are looking at other activities. Colleges seek to admit students who will make meaningful contributions to campus life. By being active in the high school and community, students demonstrate the potential for being a leader. Consider some of the following:
Extracurricular Activities: Participate in clubs, sports or performing arts programs. It’s fun and sustained involvement and/or leadership positions in extracurricular activities demonstrate commitment and initiative. Keep track of what activities you do, your role, and the amount of time you invest!
Community Service: Volunteer at an organization whose mission inspires you or provides you insight into possible career options. Colleges look for individuals who see themselves as part of the broader community. Wilson does NOT require community service for graduation so colleges know you are participating because you WANT to, not because you have to!
Part Time Jobs: Being able to obtain and maintain a part-time job shows great responsibility and maturity. The skills you learn by working in a professional environment are just as important as those from the classroom.
FACTOR 3: Admission Testing*
The SAT / ACT is no longer considered for admission to the CSU or UC system. Private school policies will vary, but in many cases testing is optional. If deciding to test, please note that while most people tend to be more familiar with the SAT, both tests are viewed equally by colleges and universities.
Should you take one of these admissions tests? This will depends on your college plans. The CSU and UC system NO LONGER CONSIDER TESTING for admission purposes. Private colleges and universities will have various policies. It’s important to remember that a test-optional college will consider your test scores if you submit them, along with the other parts of your application. This is different than test-blind colleges, which will not consider ACT or SAT scores at all. At test-optional colleges, your test scores would be considered the same as any other “optional” part of an application, such as an optional essay, letter or recommendation, interview, or portfolio. You may submit any of these items to showcase your strengths and help admissions officers understand who you are. If your SAT or ACT scores are strong (above the average of the college’s previously admitted freshmen), submitting them to a test-optional school can only help you -- and may balance out parts of your application that are less stellar.
When should you take your admissions tests? Generally, we recommend taking the official test during the spring of junior year. This gives you more time in classes that will expose you to content that will be on the test. While you can always test earlier, especially if you are taking prep classes, the deadline will be November of your senior year - while many schools will also take December scores, you are safer getting it done by November.
If choosing to test, Fee waivers are available for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. If you have used a wavier in the past, your codes will already be in your Collegeboard Account. Email your counselor to request a fee waiver code. Limit: 2 waivers per test per student.
College Search Websites
Below are a sample of the different search engines and websites devoted to helping you choose the best school for you. Always be aware that some sites are geared towards schools that have paid to advertise, but generally they provide pretty accurate information. It is always best to double check information on the actual school website.
California Colleges: This is an awesome comprehensive all in one search site and we definitely recommend starting here. We are proud to be partners with California Colleges which means that you already have an account created for you on this site - all you need to do now is register it! You are also able to access your transcript information on this site and see your progress towards meeting the A-G requirements.
Big Future School Match Assistant:This is a great site that allows you to begin with over 3,000 schools across the country and narrow down based on factors important to you. Really great for looking at details such as price, especially for in state versus out of state tuition!
Major and Career Descriptions: Not sure what you want to do after high school? Check out this great resource provided by CollegeBoard. Here you can search by major categories or by career categories to see what options you might want to pursue. It may not have everything, but it is a really easy way to start researching different paths for after high school.
Cappex: This a pretty inclusive site that allows you not only to research various schools, but they have a calculator that will determine your odds of getting into a specific college, based on numbers alone of course. That are also a lot of student reviews and worksheets.
University of California System: Going directly to the source is always a good idea! Our website has compiled bits of information and links to specific sections of the bigger UC site. Check it out for a great overview and search away!
California State University System: Yup, you guessed it - we have information for you posted for the CSU system too! The major search is particularly helpful when trying to decide which of the 23 campuses in California may be a good match for you.
When you think of college athletics, often it’s the NCAA (Div I, Div II etc.) that comes to mind. The NCAA is comprised of approximately 460,000 student-athletes at more than 1,200 schools, conferences and affiliate organizations, all vying to compete in one of 89 championship events under the NCAA umbrella.
The NAIA is a much smaller association of schools than the NCAA but is a formidable association, including more than 260 colleges and universities and representing 60,000 student-athletes. The NAIA also oversees 23 national championships in 13 different sports. And while the overall level of competition isn’t what you would find at D-I schools, NAIA sports are generally considered to be on par with NCAA Division II schools.
The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is an agreement among 160+ participating public colleges and universities to provide nonresident tuition savings.
Through WUE, eligible students can choose from hundreds of undergraduate programs outside their home state, and pay no more than 150 percent of that institution’s resident tuition rate.
Since full nonresident college-tuition rates may exceed 300 percent of resident rates, WUE increases affordable higher-education choices for students, and minimizes the adverse impacts of student loan debt.
FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT COLLEGE ADMISSIONS GUIDE
The following guide is the product of 20+ college students, 250 high school counselors, and numerous advisors in the education space.
Need this guide in another language? Several languages, including Chinese, Korean and Spanish are available at the Fair Opportunity Project website.